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Several Maharashtra Congress MLAs in touch with BJP

The implosion in the Congress party refuses to subside. Amid the infighting in Congress units in Rajasthan, Punjab and Telangana, several MLAs from the party's Maharashtra unit are now likely to switch sides to the ruling BJP. The Congress has 42 MLAs in the state Assembly.

On Thursday, 12 out of the 18 Congress MLAs in Telangana switched to the state's ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).

A senior Congress leader from Maharashtra told IANS: "Nothing seems to be good in party unit following the rout in the Lok Sabha elections. After Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil joined the BJP two days ago, three other MLAs -- Abdul Sattar, Nitish Rane and Kalidas Kolambkar -- are in touch with the BJP leaders in the state."

Patil's son Sujay won the Ahmednagar Lok Sabha seat on a BJP ticket. Because of this Patil senior did not campaign in the Lok Sabha elections. He later quit as Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly and then resigned as MLA as well.

Sattar was expelled from the Congress in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls and on Monday he met senior state minister Girish Mahajan and some other BJP leaders.

Kolambkar is a former Shiv Sena leader, who joined to the Congress along with former chief minister Narayan Rane. However, after Rane parted ways with the Congress, Kolambkar too has openly expressed his discontent with the party's functioning .

"The BJP is in touch with six more state MLAs, including Rahul Bondre, Jaykumar Gore and Bharat Bhalke. They might join the saffron party just a month or two before the Assembly elections," said the senior Congress leader. He added that they were likely to follow the Gujarat model, where many party legislators joined the ruling party just ahead of the Assembly polls.

A four-time Congress MLA and former Cabinet Minister requesting not to be named said that he too was contacted by the BJP. "But I refused their offer to join the BJP," he said. He added that the BJP was trying to poach at least 10 Congress legislators in the state.

Congress in-charge for Maharashtra Mallikarjuna Kharge is in the state to select the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) and also quell the rebellion.

Out of the 288 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly, the BJP bagged 122 seats, the Shiv Sena 63, the Congress 42 and the NCP 41 in the 2014 elections. The Shiv Sena later joined the BJP-led government.

(Anand Singh can be contacted at anand.s@ians.in)

--IANS

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